Sinek has been slaying panels for quite some time, working hard at developing a variety of stylistic approaches. Upon viewing his work, his years of experience become clearly evident. From rocking sci-fi-esque wild style pieces to traditional, legible funk styles, he’s got many tricks in his repertoire. We were lucky enough to sit down with Sinek to discuss his views on graffiti culture as well as what his good friends Phrite and Guilt meant to him.
What first drew you to graffiti, locked you in and turned you into a dedicated writer? What about it keeps you involved?
At first what drew me to graffiti was the creative aspect of producing unique letters that formed your alias. I am a creative person by nature already, so it was only right to take on this manipulation of letters. I liked the challenge of how far I could twist and bend a letter into something only I could understand, creating my own signature style. Later in the years, the mystique of it is what I loved. It was seeing others’ artwork and not knowing who these people were or where the art came from, but POW! It was right there for us to see and document with our disposable cameras.
What locked me in was all the fun and innocence I was sharing with two of the greatest painting partners anyone could have. What makes me a dedicated writer? Back then it was our goal to be recognized by our peers. We were seeing what was being produced and wanted to contribute quality work to the lines. Today continuing to write my fallen brothers names and traveling the world. A huge part of what motivates me today, is Phrite’s mother. One night I was spending time with her and his family and we were reminiscing, his mother looked me right in my face and in broken English told me, “I hope you never die!” Because if I died her son’s memory would also die.
What crews do you push and how did you come to represent each one of them? What do they mean to you?
WA-FACT, WH (KBT,EP,YNC,C9b), Droids, AMF…WA-FACT is my heart and soul. That is the crew I made with my brothers. And how I came to represent my other crews? I feel like they saw something in me that was a reflection of what they were doing, and they wanted me to share that with them and their crews. I had something to offer to help contribute to the growth of the crews. As for what they mean to me? I know everyone in my crews I push, our kids play together, we travel together, we help one another if any of us are in trouble.
I feel like today some crews just put people down to stay alive without really getting to know that person or because they briefly hung out with them a few times. The camaraderie is watered down these days. Can you really call it a crew if the people in it don’t know most the members or have never tried to meet them? No. That’s whack, and those people should be dropped. Everyone I put down in WA-FACT is solid and special to me, and in some way, I feel they will continue to express, in the right way, what Guilt, Phrite, and I were trying to accomplish. Everyone in the crews I push are like family to me. Some leave, some you might not agree with, but in the end, we’re all one and stand together. Not every family is perfect, but we’re a solid force that can’t be fucked with. I’ve always kept my circles small, less bullshit to deal with.
Did anyone mentor you early on and if so, how did that affect your growth as a young writer?
Early in my career I was introduced to graffiti by a close friend at the time, but I wasn’t mentored. I basically taught myself and did my own research. I wanted to know everything about what I was doing, the rules, who was before me, etc. Later down the road the same friend that introduced me to this shit passed my number to Phrite and told him, “If you want someone to show you how to write, call this guy.” So, I got a phone call one day. I ended up teaching Phrite and mentoring him and even ended up giving him his name after he went through a few names.
How did coming up in the southwest influence you as a writer and human?
It influenced me in a way that still does. It’s hard to paint here, it always has been. We’ve always had to work hard to get one piece in. Our shit isn’t easy, so it’s influenced me to always push harder to get where I want to be and to never give up on my goals in all aspects of my life until I reach them. Plus, the sunsets here are very colorful. In the words of Guilt, “There are no better fades than our sky.” I’m from the land of the desert and sun. If you look around, there are many things to inspire you. Colors. Wildlife. It’s probably different for someone that lives in a city like New York or Los Angeles where space is limited.Can you tell us a little bit about the types of guys Phrite and Guilt were and what they meant to you?
Phrite and Guilt were some special kind of people. I don’t say that because they are no longer here, but because it’s the truth. If you are someone who had the pleasure of meeting them, you would know exactly what I mean. Phrite had this way about him: the nicest, most humble, caring person in the world. His smile could light up a room, and his energy, you just felt it. He was smooth with the ladies and was one of the most creative and talented people I’ve ever come across in my life. Before graffiti, Phrite and I were b-boys, so best believe we were fresh with the moves. We rocked that flavor at a young age, and that carried on into our adulthood and art. He had character and class you don’t see in people these days.
Guilt was also special. He was always full of excitement and had an uncontrollable energy that couldn’t be captured. You knew when he was around. He had this laugh I have never heard again in my life. He was also an accomplished pilot who flew regularly and was very talented at making music and DJing. His roar was heard for miles, and his sense of humor…I miss it. He was more like the father of the crew and was super intelligent. Guilt was one of a kind. I have never met a person or a personality like his.
With that said, I miss them very deeply. I think about them and where life would have taken them every day. Life was cut short for them, or I’d like to think their light was too bright for this earth. It needed to travel to new worlds and take on new adventures. They were more to me than just people I painted and shared a crew with. They were my family, my brothers, my blood.
If you had to describe your lettering style to someone who has never seen it before, what would you say? What’s the logic/thinking behind how you develop/create your letters?
How would I describe my letters? It depends. If I’m doing a Wildstyle, then it would be more sharp, complex, have a lot of detail, and be aggressive. But I like to play with letters and concepts. I try to do it all and be a well-rounded writer. I don’t stick to just one thing. Instead, I have funky, playful letters, and lately I’ve been on this thing where I’ve been trying to incorporate things I like into my letters like music, skate boarding, comics, 80s movies, etc.
Your style has changed a bit over the years. How important do you think it is to evolve and push yourself in new directions? What do you do to keep things fresh and build your skills?
Yeah, I get asked all the time to bring back my old Wildstyle stuff, and I do from time to time. But, like I said, I don’t want to stick to just one thing. I’ve always tried to think outside of the box when creating new styles. I think it’s very important to evolve and push yourself, but let’s not evolve too much to the point where graffiti isn’t graffiti anymore, kind of like what’s happening now with graffiti. Styles are becoming more of a theatrical laser show instead of having flavor, style, and letter structure. Sometimes I’m like, wtf is that? When did train graffiti and wall graffiti become this bubble letter, lazy, quick get-up, mush, and let-me-print-out-fonts-from-the-computer-store-front graffiti?
Maybe I just come from a different kind of era where style, flavor, and finesse was key. If you don’t have letter styles, I’m sorry, your stuff is boo-boo to me. I’d rather see some beginner’s personal, drawn up style executed before I see half the shit out there now. Why? Because I know they’re trying to find their letters. I’ve always said, you can camouflage your letters with colors and a laser show, but the true test is painting something using only a black, white or silver. That’s when true style will either show or not!
What areas outside of graffiti inspire you the most and how does their influence show up in your work?
Things inspire me every day, and when they do, I’ll write them down on notes for later when I find time to draw. I have stuff that I have never painted, and sketches upon sketches that I have drawn that no one has ever seen. I look at things that I like outside of graffiti for inspiration. Music is a huge influence, so are movies and things from when I was a kid growing up, cartoons and toys. I want to make my graffiti fun today. I want someone to see my work and not be like, “Oh that’s just a piece,” but have the reaction of “Wow! That’s unique! That’s creative!” I want others to get a good laugh out of the humor that I sometimes put into my pieces.
For example, I’ve had numerous people contact me about a piece I did that was Carnage vs. Venom. Not only were they like, “Man that was super fresh,” but they told me, “I was with my kid, and he freaked out over it and loved it.” That right there is a rewarding response that continues to motivate and push me to other styles.
Not only did my work influence a fellow writer, but his kid, who has nothing to do with graffiti, identified with the characters on a non-graffiti level. I mean, who doesn’t like a good comic book reference? Remember, you are only as good as your last piece!Living in a state that is traditionally Republican and harsh on immigration and minorities, do you ever use your art or artistic abilities to fight the good fight? Do you think that kind of activist side of graffiti art is kind of lost these days?
Where I’m from, I feel we have a very ass backwards view on certain things, but honestly, I really don’t waste my time too much on politics. If people want to create art in hopes that it makes a change or that it lends a voice to standing up against things they don’t believe in, then knock yourself out. But that’s not really my style. I’ve helped on projects like that, but don’t go out of my way to do it out of personal views. I like looking at art that does that and that sends a message, but that’s what we have street artist for. (Laughs)
Do you think the current popularity of graffiti culture has changed it at all? If so, in what ways?
In a way, yes. The more popular something is, the more it gets watered down and the more exploited it gets. The more eyes on it, the more people want to take from it. I feel like that’s what today’s graffiti culture is, but when everyone’s done taking what they need from the culture, I’ll still be around in the shadows doing my thing until I leave this planet.
If you could’ve told your younger self what to avoid and what to embrace within the graffiti culture what would you have said?
If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell him to avoid nothing. That kid has a brain and has always known how to use it. I would tell him to embrace everything! It’s been fun. I’ve had a great career, minus a few hiccups, but nothing I would change. I would tell him to embrace more time with Guilt and Phrite. But if he asked why, I wouldn’t tell him, only that he needs to.
If you had to make a painting playlist, what artists/musicians would be on it and why?
Now here is a perfect question! Well, let’s just say I love music more than graffiti. I listen to almost everything. I feel music plays a huge part in everything I do. My playlist ranges from classical to ’80s electro funk, to trance, break beats, metal, classic rock, good hip-hop. It’s all over the place. It may go from Megadeth to Cymande, Babe Ruth to Kool Mo Dee, to the Ghetto Brother. Yeah! It’s quite a mix. But what I love painting to most is trance music. I get lost, and it helps me when I’m creating and relaxing.
How important do you think it is for newer writers to learn about the history of the culture and those who came before them? Do you think the newer generation has the same respect for the founders of the culture that maybe you or I had?
I think it’s very important. What’s the point of doing anything if you don’t know its background? I feel 70% of today’s generation doesn’t even give a shit about the culture, which is sad and only destroys it. You can already see it on the lines today, so-called train writers going over history that’s been untouched for decades. Some of the responses I’ve heard are that it was old or it was small. No, you’re just a fucking toy! Stop painting just to post it because you feel like it makes you somebody, and do your fucking homework for once. The lines are overly saturated with this kind of ignorance. To the youngsters that take the time to research and respect the culture, hats off to you, you’re going to make it far in this game.
As you’ve gotten older, has your outlook regarding graffiti changed at all? How?
Yes and no. I find myself these days not caring too much about it. I still love to do it and do it as much as I can, but these days I’m a super busy person with other things on my plate. I’m also not that young kid anymore that eats, breathes, and shits graffiti. I’m a grown man with other new hobbies. My new thing is painting abroad, exploring new territory, and overall, new adventures. I enjoy going to a country and learning how they do things there. I’ve met some amazing people on my travels. It’s a whole different set of rules, my friends.
Painting trains was something I shared with two people that I can never do it with again, so it hasn’t been the same for me. I still love trains, but I feel train graffiti is becoming this unstoppable trend and slowly losing that soul it once had. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still see me rolling whether they hatin’ or not (laughs). Because you don’t see me posting my stuff, doesn’t mean I’m not putting in work. It’s just that now, when you go on vacation, maybe you’ll see me burning in a place you didn’t expect.
Sometimes graff can cause violence and beef. What would you say to someone who said there’s no difference between graffiti and gangs? And how do you feel about beef, especially beef that turns violent?
The age-old question about beef. There’s a huge difference between gangs and graffiti. I grew up in gang infested neighborhoods, went to schools where gang culture was always present. I couldn’t even wear certain colors because if you did you could get rolled up on. I’ve had guns drawn on me for wearing a color, I mean stupid shit! Graffiti, when I started, was nowhere near that type of ignorance. I mean, you had the tag banger shit, but I looked at that stuff and it wasn’t graffiti to me. From my experience, that only exists in the southwest part of our country.
Graffiti was made as an outlet to escape that kind of shit and to have fun while doing it with your friends. I mean, really, you’re just a person spray painting your name on property that isn’t yours. You’re not Tony Montana or some shit. I know some solid people who have a name, and they are far from being in gangs, some are teachers, lawyers, well-rounded individuals. Plus, I thought gangs died out in the late ’90s (laughs). I don’t know though; it seems like today everyone wants to be this “I’m a tough guy” or they want to live this rap video life. Get the fuck out of here! What happened to just being yourself? How do I feel about beef? I mean, how does any person feel about it? No one likes beef unless you are some sick fuck that mommy didn’t hold enough.
But sometimes I feel it is a part of anything you do, so handle it accordingly. I look at beef as a quick way to get attention. Leave the soap opera shit for day-time T.V.! If you don’t do dumb shit, you won’t have beef, and if you do dumb shit, then you get what you deserve. I don’t promote violence because I’ve seen enough of it, but sometimes you may need to punch somebody in the face. Sometimes you may need to take a fist to the face, but I feel if that level can be avoided, go that route. I assume people already have much bigger stresses in life than to worry about petty graffiti shit. That’s just my opinion.
What do you think separates graffiti writers from street artists? Is one superior to another and why?
Mindset is what separates us. Graffiti has been around a lot longer than street art. Anyone can be a street artist, but it takes a lot more to write graffiti. Same concept, but vastly different in many ways. Today, I feel like some people want to take their graffiti careers and be “street artists”. On the other hand, I feel like street artists want to claim that grimy graffiti “street cred”. It’s a catch 22. I don’t feel one is better than the other. It’s people doing their thing.
I think the problem that occurs and tends to sparks this kind of question, is that street artist, whoever they me be, feel they are above graffiti because what they are doing has a “message”, whatever that may be. Their lack of respect and putting their street art over someone’s graffiti…in graff world that’s called beef! They don’t understand our unspoken rules, so when confronted they possibly feel like we’re being too harsh on their street art. Your message doesn’t matter to me. Don’t touch my shit, and it won’t matter to me where you put your street art.
Do you think you’ll ever stop writing your name on shit?
Maybe. I’ll continue, as long as I am still alive to do so. I write 3 names now, not only mine, but Phrite and Guilt’s as well. Honestly, I don’t even care about how much my name is up. I care about writing theirs’ more because they no longer can, and I know they’d do the same for me.
Any last words/shout outs?
Thanks for taking the time to read a little about us, and thanks to Bombing Science for interviewing me. I want to send a shout out to Phrite and Guilt’s family. You guys are some of the strongest and most amazing people in the world and every time I hang with you guys you make life a little bit better. My friends and crew-mates, you rock! Last, but not least, I want to give a huge shout out to my right-hand man Serp. Thanks for always having my back and I enjoy our conversations about life. Don’t sleep on this guy, look him up. 2017 and on, we’re coming for you!